Consumers should respond quickly if they suspect or know that they are a victim of identity theft. Responding quickly may minimize the damage.
Below are the first steps consumers should take if they believe they have fallen victim to identity theft. Additional response actions are also provided.
You can file a complaint with the FTC using its online complaint form; or call the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653-4261; or write to the Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.
Be sure to call the Hotline to update your complaint if you have any additional information or problems. By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide important information that can help law enforcement officials across the nation track down and stop identity thieves.
You should also inform your local police and obtain a police report, which documents that you are an identity theft victim. The report will help you obtain receipts and transaction records from stores, credit card companies and other businesses used by the identity thief. The police report may improve your chances of obtaining compensation or restitution if the case is prosecuted. Under a New York State law, promoted by the New York State Department of State Division of Consumer Protection, police departments in the State are required to take a report from a suspected victim of identity theft and give him/her a free copy.
You can also provide the police with a printed copy of your online FTC complaint form so that it can be incorporated into the police report. The printed FTC Identity Theft Complaint, in conjunction with the police report, can constitute an Identity Theft Report under the law and entitle you to certain protections. An Identity Theft Report can be used to (1) permanently block fraudulent information from appearing on your credit report; (2) ensure that debts resulting from the fraud do not reappear on your credit report; (3) prevent a company from continuing to collect debts caused by the incidence of identity theft; and, (4) place an extended Fraud Alert on your credit report.
One of the first steps you should take if you fall victim to identity theft is to notify any one of the three credit reporting agencies. The credit reporting agency you notify is responsible for informing the other two agencies on your behalf. You may want to consider notifying all three agencies to ensure they are aware of your situation. To help prevent further victimization, you can place a Fraud Alert or a Security Freeze on your credit report. The Division has resources to assist in understanding how to place a Fraud Alert or Security Freeze, and the difference between the two tools.
You will also want to check your credit report for discrepancies, such as open accounts you do not recognize and did not authorize. More information regarding credit reports can be found on Check Your Credit Reports Regularly For Free page.
As an identity theft victim, you should notify all banks, creditors, utilities, insurance carriers, phone, Internet service and cable television providers, libraries and organizations where your personally identifying information was compromised. You may also consider closing bank and credit card accounts, and requesting new account numbers and PINs.
Below are additional resources that can guide you through basic response steps after victimization.
Last Modified: June 22, 2011